Protests in Hong Kong are by and large peaceful and orderly affairs. Be it the annual July 1 mass rally or a weekend demonstration by a handful of activists, they are usually staged with self-restraint and discipline. While the causes being championed do not necessarily win cross-sector support in society, they are greeted with respect and tolerance, as long as the protests are carried out within the law.
Regrettably, our fine tradition is being eroded by some radical activists. They keep pushing limits set by the law, disrupt public functions and hijack events staged by others. The latest attack against the Democratic Party is an example. The activists, some of whom affiliated with the radical People Power, stormed the stage when the Democrats formally pledged to participate in Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement planning to push for universal suffrage by blocking the financial centre. Although the activists also support the controversial campaign to be launched later this year, they are upset that the Democrats brokered what they regarded as an undemocratic reform package with Beijing's liaison office in 2010. They also accused the party of betraying Hong Kong by not demanding that voters be given the right to put forward candidates to stand in the chief executive election in 2017.
This is not the first time politically charged protests have escalated into confrontation. Some Beijing-friendly groups set up with a view to promoting patriotism and stability have also clashed with the rival camp before. While both sides are entitled to their political views, opinions should be expressed in a rational and lawful way. It is worrying that they are increasingly resorting to disorderly actions to make themselves heard.
A campaign seeking to achieve democracy by breaking the law is a breakaway from our tradition of protesting within the law. If the Democrats' swearing-in ceremony is any reference, the Occupy Central campaign is open to abuse by others. It is difficult to see how the organiser can prevent radical forces from hijacking the event and maintain peace and discipline.